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Government should do more for country's poorest, new poll suggests

Polling out today shows seven out of ten (69%) of New Zealanders agree “the Government should increase income support for those on low incomes and not in paid work”.

The UMR poll was commissioned by a super-group of NGOs who are urging the government to include increases to income support in this year’s budget, in order to release families from the severe constraints of poverty. 

The group includes unions, social service NGOs, kaupapa Māori groups, churches, child poverty experts and other organisations across Aotearoa. 

“Across New Zealand we are united in recognising that the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic has not fallen evenly, and this poll confirms that as a nation we are no longer willing to tolerate growing inequalities,” says Jacqui Southey from Save the Children. “We all want to work together and do our bit to ensure all of our team of five million have liveable incomes. We’re in this together.”

The group says by keeping income support levels low the Government is choosing to lock more and more people into poverty, with the heaviest burden falling on Māori, Pacific peoples, women, disabled people and children. 

“This poll shows that ensuring liveable incomes for all would be a popular move for the government, across the board, as well as the right thing to do,” says Janet McAllister from Child Poverty Action Group. “Even two-thirds (66%) of those with high household incomes - over $100,000 - agree the government should increase income support for those financially less fortunate than themselves.”

“Our compassionate and inclusive approach to caring for the most vulnerable during COVID-19 outbreaks served us well. We must take the same common sense approach to ensure everyone, whether they are working, caring for children, living with a disability or illness, learning, or have lost their jobs before or because of COVID-19, has a liveable income,” continues McAllister.

Figures released by Stats NZ earlier this month show annual inflation for beneficiaries was almost three times higher than for all households in 2020. The Salvation Army’s State of the Nation report 2021 released last week showed an additional 23,000 children living in households relying on income support, and outlined how the economic impact of Covid-19 looks set to further exacerbate unacceptable levels of poverty and inequity.

Dee-Ann Wolferston, CEO of Te Kāhui Mana Ririki says Māori are disproportionately represented in the unskilled and low-paid jobs in our communities and therefore Māori are more likely to be impacted by job losses as result of COVID-19 according to a BERL study

“Family violence is one of those behaviours that will escalate as result of cost pressures, job losses and housing shortages. In the past 12 months family violence has increased in areas as much as 33%, within which Māori are disproportionately impacted. Raising income support rates will reduce financial pressures for whānau Maori who are already in crisis,” continues Wolferston.

“Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promised to govern for all New Zealanders but right now many members of our communities are being locked into poverty by low income support rates,” says Ruby Powell from ActionStation. 

“The time for excuses is up. This poll shows the Government has a clear social licence and mandate, on top of its moral obligation, to lift inadequate welfare payments to “liveable” levels, and it needs to be done now, in this budget round.”